Data is being utilised to sanitise the NSW construction business, pinpointing apartment blocks under construction most likely to be problematic and flagging them for audit and remediation before they sell their units.

The plan is just a single component of multi-pronged, data-motivated changes for the construction business, with a strata data hub and digitised trade licences also being planned – and a response to the data privacy issues pushed through.

The data analytics plan by the NSW Government involves the analysis of more than 170 million lines of data to reveal the worst performing certifiers and the residential apartment structures they’re building and prompting developers to rectify any issues before consumers claim their homes.

Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson, states the data-driven audit regime will enable the quantity of buildings scrutnised by the building regulator to be tripled to up to 150 structures every six months.

This new plan, says Anderson, is a major step in the government’s commitment to cleaning up the industry.

The data analysis is an extension of a data drive by NSW Government as it strives to clean up the construction sector and enhance accountability and transparency in the building sector. Faulty labour has been blamed for elevating the cost of new houses and costing NSW taxpayers more than $700 million through the government’s home warranty plan, with premiums for new low-rise apartments rising 30 percent in January.

Earlier in 2021 NSW Fair Trading presented its plans for a centralised digital ‘Strata Hub’ supplying access to strata data, granting property buyers insights into buildings while permitting the regulator to monitor every building’s continuing maintenance and defect management. Data collected throughout the building phase would be kept in the data hub to ‘help consumers make informed decisions about the trustworthiness of a building,’ Anderson stated in presenting the hub plans.

Subject to the passage of legislation and rules, owners’ corporations will be called upon to report info like yearly fire safety statements and litigation related to defects.

The plans for the hub were followed up in April by news the NSW Government is digitising the licence card for in excess than 30 Home Building and SafeWork categories, inserting the trade licenses into the digital wallet in the Service NSW app.

Anderson stated that the system will empower about 1.5 million tradies to bid farewell to plastic licences – of which they may be required to hold up to 15 on the job – instead possessing swift and simple access to all the work licenses they require on their smartphones.

The White Card, which allows holders to pursue construction labour in NSW, is the inaugural category to go digital.

But, wherever we find data, we also have data breach and privacy worries. And the NSW Government’s spectrum of data driven plans come in conjunction with plans to implement a Mandatory Notification Data Breach (MNDB) scheme. The plan would concern NSW government agencies and departments, local councils and public universities. Draft legislation was presented for consultation last week.

Privacy Commissioner Samantha Gavel stated that she favours the move to introduce the scheme, inspired by the Federal Government’s Notifiable Data Breaches scheme, which debuted in 2018.

The adoption of a similar plan in NSW would be important, promoting and supporting valid responsible privacy practices by NSW agencies, Gaval said, adding it would also help to build public confidence in the Government’s usage of digital technology and data to enhance results and services for the public.

The Information and Privacy Commission has a voluntary data breach plan enacted.

If passed, there will be a yearlong implementation time to empower organisations to enact systems and processes to comply with MNDB requirements.